The E4 motorway runs the length of Sweden, from Helsingborg in the south past Haparanda in the north, and is considered the country’s main highway.
Researchers from the Luleå University of Technology recently installed 400 solar-powered communications devices along four kilometres of E4 between Piteå and Luleå which rely on a wireless network to relay information about ice on the road, traffic jams, and other dangerous conditions.
“Modern automobiles are being fitted with increasingly intelligent safety systems, but not everyone has access to them so we want to make the roads intelligent instead,” said project leader Wolfgang Birk from the Luleå University of Technology to the Ny Teknik newspaper.
The Swedish Road Administration (Vägverket), as well as technology companies Eistec and Geveko, are cooperating in the four year venture.
The project’s sensors are fastened to the pavement with a special adhesive and operate using solar-powered batteries.
Lights on the sensors can change color or start flashing a few hundred metres ahead of an ice patch or other road hazard.
They can also send signals to nearby road signs which can then flash reduced speed limits as conditions warrant.
Of course, the biggest test for the new equipment’s commercial viability will be whether they can withstand the merciless conditions that come with winter in Sweden’s far north.
“The roads get pretty rough treatment with snow, ice and snow ploughs. If the technology can cope with conditions up here it will be able to withstand most things,” said Åke Lindmark, development manager at the Swedish Road Administration, to Ny Teknik.